The government’s decision to allow people to travel to their village homes to celebrate Eid is a “suicidal move” amid the coronavirus outbreak, which will help the virus spread to all corners of the country, experts fear.
They say the coronavirus situation will take a dangerous turn after Eid, scheduled to be celebrated on Monday, and warned that new cases and deaths will spike overwhelming the already outstretched healthcare system.
Bangladesh on Saturday announced detection of 1,873 new cases and 20 deaths. So far, the country has recorded 32,078 cases and 452 deaths. Most of the cases – 13,093 – have been reported from Dhaka City.
With Eid only a day away, a large number of city dwellers were seen leaving the capital through different exit points as the law enforcers withdrew their barricades and check posts.
Since public transport remains suspended, people left Dhaka by trucks, pickup vans, private vehicles, microbuses, motorcycles and human-haulers. Many home-goers hired private vehicles at exorbitant prices and most of the vehicles were packed with people.
The ferry terminals of Shimulia-Kanthalbari and Daulatdia-Paturia were overcrowded.
On Friday, Director General of Rapid Action Battalion Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun said people can travel to their village homes in their private vehicles on the occasion of Eid. This triggered an unprecedented flow of homebound people.
Talking to UNB, Traffic Inspector Akhtar Hossain of Traffic Uttara division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said a small number of private cars and microbuses left the city due to strict monitoring in the last couple of weeks but the stream of vehicles intensified significantly on Saturday.
The Jatri Kalyan Samity, passengers’ welfare association, dubbed the government’s decision “apparently suicidal”.
It feared that failing to restrict people’s movement during Eid holidays would debacle attempts to contain coronavirus transmission and road accidents.
A section of car and microbus owners are exploiting the situation and are not even abiding by any health guidelines while carrying passengers, putting people at greater risk of infection.
‘Putting everyone at risk’
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Vice-Chancellor Prof Kanak Kanti Barua said the situation will seriously deteriorate after Eid.
“The virus will now be transmitted to uninfected areas and the number of patients will increase sharply after Eid. The death rate may increase as hospitals will not be able to deal with a huge number of patients,” he warned.
Prof Barua said all hospitals will have to be equipped to treat COVID-19 patients in the days to come, depriving most-non-corona patients of treatment. “Many people suffering from other critical diseases will die for lack of treatment when the number of coronavirus patients will increase across the country,” he said.
He suggested everyone to maintain hygiene and social distancing so that family members and villagers do not get infected.
“Everyone should wear masks as it can lessen the transmission of the virus. When the infected and non-infected people come in close contact wearing masks, the virus may not spread,” he said.
Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said over 80 percent areas in the country were free from coronavirus, but now these areas are at a high risk.
“Over 100,000 Eid congregations will be held across the country on Monday. If only two infected persons join each of the congregations, they can infect several lakh people in a day,” he said.
Mentioning that there are many asymptomatic patients, he said the government should take steps so that those who returned home move in a controlled way or remain in home quarantine to prevent the virus transmission.
BSMMU VC Prof Barua suggested enforcing a curfew so that people cannot move here and there during the Eid festival. “This can help slow the spread of the virus in rural areas,” he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to join the Global Vaccine Summit virtually to be hosted by the UK on June 4 as the countries across the globe want to stop future waves of infection.
The Global Vaccine Summit will be an entirely virtual event amid no hope of respite from the coronavirus pandemic very soon.
“We look forward to the participation of senior representatives of the government of Bangladesh. We have extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has been a global and national champion of immunisation," British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson told UNB.
The High Commissioner said he is delighted to share that the UK is hosting the virtual Global Vaccine Summit on June 4.
“Effective vaccination is always vital to public health. It will play a key role in helping us to move beyond this unprecedented global pandemic," Dickson said.
The Summit, he said, is an important milestone in securing support to immunise 300 million children and save up to 8 million lives by 2025, strengthening health systems around the world and helping to tackle coronavirus in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The host country said this will help stop future waves of infection spreading globally, including coming to the UK.
The UK government and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are working with partners and have finalised plans for the Summit programme and format, which are being shared with partners in due course.
The UK government will host Gavi’s third donor pledging conference on 3-4 June, 2020 to mobilise at least US$ 7.4 billion in additional resources to protect the next generation with vaccines, reduce disease inequality and create a healthier, safer and more prosperous world.
The conference works to put countries' needs at the forefront of discussions.
It will bring together private and public sector global leaders, build long-term sustainability and vaccine supply security to reduce disease inequality and create a safer and more prosperous world.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on countries to come together in a “truly global effort” to defeat coronavirus.
The UK is already the biggest donor to the global fund to find a coronavirus vaccine.
The International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan earlier announced a funding pledge equivalent to £330 million a year over the next five years to Gavi.
This will help immunise 75 million children in the world’s poorest countries.
The UK has so far provided £744 million of UK aid for the global response to coronavirus.
In September last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the prestigious ‘Vaccine Hero’ award in recognition of Bangladesh's outstanding success in vaccination to immunise children.
Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisations (GAVI) conferred the award upon the Prime Minister at a ceremony at the Conference Room 1 of the UN Headquarters.
Receiving the award, Sheikh Hasina dedicated it to the people of Bangladesh.
The success of Bangladesh in vaccination programme is now globally acknowledged.
Bangladesh hoped to reach the target of ‘vaccines for all’ in the country well ahead of 2030.
As the world grapples with a rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths with a vaccine still far off, researchers are now betting on Convalescent Plasma Therapy (CPT) for saving lives of COVID-19 patients.
Plasma is the liquid portion of blood that remains when all red and white blood cells and platelets have been removed. In CPT, plasma collected from recovered patients is infused into patients who currently have the disease.
CPT is, by far, the oldest treatment being tested to battle COVID-19, being successful in cases during the previous coronavirus outbreaks such as the Sars epidemic in 2003 and the Ebola virus outbreak in 2013. Physicians used CPT effectively before the specific treatment was developed for H1N1 influenza (Spanish virus), SARS-1 and MERS virus.
German physiologist Emil von Behring first introduced the idea of using plasma as a therapy, a theory for which he won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1901 by experimenting with plasma serum therapies against diphtheria.
There has so far been more than 5.2 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. So far, 338,142 deaths have been attributed to the virus but more two million people have so far recovered.
Coronavirus, first reported in China in December last year, is a respiratory disease which seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients require hospital treatment.
The US has by far the largest number with 1,600,937 confirmed cases and 95,979 deaths.
Bangladesh’s confirmed coronavirus cases shot past the 30,000-mark on Friday with the detection of 1,694 new cases in the span of 24 hours. During this period, 24 more people died from COVID-19 disease, taking the death tally to 432.
Dr. Zhou Min, a recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city's blood center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. AP File Photo
Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) has started collecting plasma from COVID-19 recovered donors. Earlier, CPT was used for treating a COVID-19 patient for the first time in Bangladesh at the Evercare Hospital Dhaka (formerly known as Apollo Hospital) on May 6.
Dr Joardar Rakin Manzoor from DMCH was the first plasma donor.
Professor Dr MA Khan, chief of the national technical subcommittee for the plasma treatment and head of DMCH’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit and department of haematology, told UNB that two doctors who have recovered from COVID-19 have donated their plasma on May 16.
Also Read: Global coronavirus cases surpasses 5.2mln: JHU
The doctors who donated their plasma are Dr Dildar Hossain Badol from Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital and Dr Rownak Jamil Piyash from Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital.
“The procedure of plasma collection is set to examine further possibilities to find the best therapy options to treat coronavirus patients. The therapy has been successful in many parts of the world and so we’re also trying to examine the therapy. Primarily, we’ll be testing this therapy on 45 patients who are currently admitted to DMCH,” Prof Khan said.
He said a special kit worth Tk 12,000 can collect the plasma from a donor. Another kit for running the ALIZA test to determine the number of antibodies in a donor’s blood, costs about Tk 150,000.
DMCH has already ordered four such kits worth Tk 600,000 from Spain, and each kit is capable of testing 90 samples. DMCH authorities are primarily bearing the cost at the trial stage while the government is also stepping forward with fund, Prof Khan added.
He said patients with COVID-19 can donate blood 14 days after recovery. "Antibodies are made in the body within this time. Plasma increases the patient's immunity and helps to recover quickly. The effectiveness is higher on the patient's body if the patient receives CPT at the initial stage of infection than being at the critical stage," Prof Khan added.
Bangladesh embracing CPT
On April 25, the UK government approved the clinical trial of CPT for National Health Service (NHS) for treating COVID-19 patients. On April 12, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) called for applications to study the safety and efficacy of CPT in managing complications associated with COVID-19. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CPT on April 4.
In Bangladesh, a national technical subcommittee for the plasma treatment under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) was formed in early April and DMCH’s blood transfusion department decided on April 28 to explore CPT to treat COVID-19 patients.
DGHS was also directed to supervise other hospitals across the country in this regard.
Dr Khan submitted a proposal to the government to introduce the procedure in Bangladesh as many countries including India has already approved the treatment to fight COVID-19.
He told UNB that following the proposal, the government formed the four-member technical committee with Dr Khan being as the head.
“There’s no reason to be afraid to come forward as a plasma donor for the COVID-19 survivors. The more we get the plasma from the donors, the more we can proceed with the CPT to battle COVID-19,” Dr Khan said, urging all recovered patients to donate plasma to help others battling the virus.
Supply chain disruption and lack of effective measures by authorities concerned during the coronavirus pandemic have led to the closure of dozens of poultry farms in Thakurgaon.
Besides, restriction on movement also dealt a heavy blow to the farms as they failed to supply their chicken to other districts.
Thousands of people in Thakurgaon are dependent on poultry business.
This year has been tough for almost all businesses, including poultry farms, after the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent government-announced general holidays since March 26 to curb the spread of the virus.
Besides, people have started avoiding consumption of chicken during the pandemic resulting in a slump in prices.
In this situation, the traders have sold boiler chicken at Tk 55-60 per kg, Pakistani chicken Tk 100 per kg, local variety of chicken at Tk 280 per kg. Besides, four pieces of eggs is being sold at Tk 20.
Continuous losses have forced many to shut down their farms.
Poultry farmers Joynal Ali, Shafiqul Islam, Kismat Ali of Gareya, Chilrang, and Salandor areas of the Sadar upazila said they have been running their businesses taking loans.
Besides, they have to bear additional costs including the wages of workers but as the prices of chicken and egg come down, it is impossible for them to continue operating businesses.
As a result, many farmers have closed down their business and are now staring at bleak future prospects.
Also Read:Coronavirus makes meat dearer in Dhaka
According to sources at District Livestock office, there are 7,000 poultry farms in the district who produce 4 million chicken and 180 million eggs a year.
Mohammad Altaf Hossain, District Livestock official, said they were yet to assess the losses.
“We have no idea about how many poultry farms have closed down during the coronavirus situation,” he said.
Basanti Rani, a handloom artist from Sonargaon Upazila of Narayanganj District in Dhaka Division, makes handmade fan from yarns for a living. She lives with her family consisting of her only son, a daughter and a son-in-law. With the crafting assistance of her family members, she runs the family with earnings that come through selling the handmade fans.
Already in financial crisis due to her limited income, Basanti and her family have fallen in extreme financial crisis when the COVID-19 started impacting her amount of craft-orders in the market.
Nimai Malakar, another artisan from Magura district is well-known for his Shola (a dried, milky-white, spongey plant known also as Indian Cork) crafts and even participated and showcased his crafts in the Zainul Fest in Dhaka University last year. Despite achieving the fame, Nimai had very little earning to feed his family and always had to depend on the occasional profit-boosting in festivities like Puja and occasions like Pahela Baishakh in the country.
As the pandemic has stopped almost all the festivities around the world, talented artisans like Nimai is afraid to continue his craftings due to financial crisis.
A country which is upholding the pride of its age-old heritage of overwhelming crafts such as Muslin and Jamdani and various other traditional craftworks - Bangladesh has always been indebted to its thousands of artisans who had been crafting their hearts out for years.
The artisans are some of the most talented and fine-skilled people in the country who are totally dependent on their artistry and craftings, as they choose not to master any other skill during their lifetime rather honing their talent in crafts and achieving further brilliance through intense dedication.
As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the global economy and almost all aspects of lives around the entire world, art and crafts have also received a huge loss in many countries. However, the loss in Bangladesh seems pretty implacable - as the artisans were already in poor economic condition and not economically prepared to deal with the crisis.
"Without the artisans of our country, we would not even have an identity in terms of heritage. They are landless, poor people who have been engaged in craft-related activities for years now, and representing many of our intangible heritage and culture of Bangladesh. So, it is imperative that we save these skilled groups of people, strengthening the local economy in return and safeguarding our cultural identity, especially during the prevalent crisis situation," stated Maheen Khan, the Founder President of Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh (FDCB).
Understanding the crisis, FDCB has taken the needed initiative to support the most vulnerable artisan communities of Bangladesh, which include the high risk, elderly, and impoverished section of the craft society. As there are thousands of artisan families looking to survive the crisis, FDCB is also seeking support from donors and patrons in this noble venture to be able to help the artisans for a worthy period of time.
Maheen Khan (c).Photo:Collected
According to Maheen Khan, one of the most acclaimed fashion designers in the country with her brand Mayasir, the initiative is currently meant for three months. The plan is to provide the artisan families in the selected category with Tk 5,000 cash assistance so that their basic necessities are met and they can survive through the temporary fallout.
Talking to UNB about the initiative, FDCB General Secretary Saibal Saha informed that the artisans have already been receiving the donations from last week of April. The selected categories include the ‘Shitol Pati Shilpo’ (cane-mat crafts), Haat Pakha Shilpo (crafts featuring handmade fan from yarns), Goyna Shilpo (ornaments and jewellery crafts), Daru Shilpo (woodmade crafts), Boyon Shilpo (handloom crafts), Shuchi Karmo Shilpo (sewing crafts) and Mrith Shilpo (clay and pottery crafts).
“Artisans like the above-mentioned Basanti and Nimai have already been facilitated with donations under the #ADOPTANARTISAN program by FDCB, and many more artisans and their families can survive the pandemic and move forward with their artistry only if the people lend a hand with donations to our fashion council's humanitarian initiative to help, protect and support the artisan communities who have been upholding the pride of Bangladesh at the forefront of the global arena for years, with their brilliant craftworks,” Saibal told UNB.
If the artisans can survive the economic havoc of the pandemic through this initiative, then their works can be showcased in future exhibitions when the pandemic will be over and life gets back to normal. get
Donors can help a family of an artisan with a donation of Tk 5,000 for a month, Tk 10,000 for 2 months and Tk 15,000 for 3 months. The donations can be made through mobile financial services including Bkash at 01707063537 (Merchant number), and Nagad at 01777468980 (Personal).
Donors can also call at 01717377264 for writing a check or further information.